Several photos involving juveniles who are partially nude, nude, or in sexually explicit poses have been posted recently on sites such as Instagram, prompting the Anne Arundel County Police Department to host a Facebook discussion this week about the dangers of sexting.
Sexting -- taking a nude "selfie" and sending it to someone – can, in some cases, violate state law. The department said the investigation into these recent reports has found that most of the images do not rise to the level of child pornography under Maryland law, police said. However, authorities urged the public to be aware of these issues and to report occurrences to Instagram’s Help Center at or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber Tip Line.
The photos posted on Instagram referred to an Anne Arundel County High School, police said.
Resident Tanya Locklear wrote on the police department’s Facebook page that youths get cellphones at too young an age. “I didn't have a cellphone until I could pay the bill myself. … Before they really know consequences for their actions like sexting."
The police department is recommending parents speak with their children and explain the possible repercussions and dangers of taking photographs of themselves in a partially nude, nude, or sexually explicit manner, then posting on the Internet.
Parent Tanya Locklear told police, “Being a mom, I appreciate the attention you are putting forth to try and put a stop to it all. I’m not naïve, I know it will never go away, but knowing Anne Arundel County Police Department are in full force maybe it will make some think twice.”
up to parents to explain to kids that sexting is never acceptable. “As soon as
you hand your child a digital device, be it a phone or a tablet or a computer,
you should begin the discussion that sending or receiving inappropriate
pictures is never okay, nor is sending explicit sexual messages.”
Youths need to understand that producing, transmitting, sharing, or possessing sexually explicit images of a minor, even of themselves, is a violation of the law and could result in child pornography charges and being required to register as a sexual offender, police said.
Parent Becky Blackwell Simmons said on Facebook, “My son is too young for this yet, he turned 8 today. But I'll have to have the talk eventually.”
The police department offers these steps parents can take to guide their children’s social media behavior:
Again, from day one with a digital device, make it clear to your child that having that device is a privilege and not a right. Along with that privilege, your child should be aware that you have the right and responsibility to monitor your child’s activities on the device.
You should always know the passcodes to all of their devices.
Parental controls and applications are available to help monitor their children’s phone and internet usage.
• Minimize temptations.
A lot of sexting occurs under peer pressure when groups of kids are together.
Collecting cell phones at parties or at sleepovers and so forth may help.
• Discuss the news.
There is no shortage of incidents involving teens and sexting in the news, as well as news about the negative consequences that resulted.
Bring these evens to your child’s attention and discuss.
Discuss these issues with the school and other parents. Schools can do workshops for both parents and kids. Other parents sometimes have advice or experiences to share that can be helpful.
Kids are way more tech-savvy than their parents. Take the time to learn about the sites they are using and how they work.